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Washington DUI FAQ

An arrest for a Washington DUI is an overwhelming and typically foreign experience. Below is a list of common Frequently (Washington DUI FAQ) asked question that we are asked regularly by those accused of DUI.

What are the chances of winning my DOL hearing?

The Implied Consent Law (RCW 46.20.308) ensures quick consequences for those arrested for DUI in Washington State. You can find an excerpt of the legislature’s findings to 2004 amendments to a DUI statute below:

“The legislature finds that previous attempts to curtail the incidence of driving while intoxicated have been inadequate. The legislature further finds that property loss, injury, and death caused by drinking drivers continue at unacceptable levels. This act is intended to convey the seriousness with which the legislature views this problem. To that end the legislature seeks to ensure swift and certain consequences for those who drink and drive.”

The latest statistics available from the Department of Licensing are from January 1st, 2009 through August 2009, 9,697 DOL hearings have been held for Washington DUI arrests. From that total, there were 1,926 dismissals (in which the driver wins). That amounts to a 19.87 percent success rate (through August 2009) for those Washington DUI drivers who requested an administrative hearing.  Recent statistics from the end of 2013 show a modest increase with the success rate for driver’s requesting the hearing reached 23%.

Even with a better average for a success at these hearings, you must understand you enter with a severe disadvantage. Should you not win the hearing, you may immediately apply for an Ignition Interlock License (IIL Application).

Since the fee to request one of these hearings is a staggering $375, and you only have 20 days from the date of arrest to request the hearing, it is absolutely critical you immediately speak with an experienced DUI lawyer immediately following your arrest.

Does it matter which law enforcement agency arrested me for a Washington DUI?

Yes! It is a major part of the case. If a Washington State Trooper arrested you, then the County Prosecutor of the county of arrest prosecutes. Likewise, if a County Deputy made the arrest, then the County Prosecutor will prosecute. And, if a municipal officer (e.g., from Battle Ground or Camas) arrested you for DUI, then you will head to court in the municipal court of that arrest.

How prosecuting agencies treat Washington DUIs is anything but uniform. No one argues that a DUI arrest is very serious, but still, some prosecuting jurisdictions are more willing to accept plea bargaining than others. In fact, two similar cases that share fact patterns and breath test results could result in different outcomes if they occur in different jurisdictions.

What is an alcohol evaluation in Washington DUI law?

A state-certified agency will require anyone convicted of an alcohol-related driving request (DUI, or a DUI amended to a lesser offense) to obtain an alcohol/drug evaluation. The evaluator will consider the following: The evaluator needs a copy of the police report and breath/blood report. The evaluator will also need a copy of the arrested driver’s criminal record and driving record in case there are any prior alcohol/drug charges.

Before you meet with the evaluator, you first need a urinalysis to identify any alcohol or nonprescription drugs in your system. You also must complete a MAST/DAST (Michigan Alcohol Screening Test) screening test, consisting of 22 questions about your exposure to alcohol. DAST (Drug Abuse Screening Test) consists of 20 questions about your exposure to drugs. You must also complete a questionnaire about your history with alcohol and/or drugs. Once you have completed the written evaluation, you will meet with the evaluator who will ask you about family history of addiction and alcohol and drug use patterns.

Diagnosis involves three basic levels. Insufficient evidence of alcohol/substance abuse – “NSP” in common parlance, stands for “no significant problem.” Treatment recommendations are usually one 8-hour day of alcohol/drug information school.

Alcohol/drug abuse – If you have a tendency to misuse or abuse drugs but are not addicted the treatment for SP1 (standing for significant problem level 1) requires you, if an abuser, that usually lasts 6-12 months. You will also have group and individual counseling once to twice each week, and must abstain from drugs completely during treatment term. The treatment agency assigns random urinalysis to ensure and monitor abstinence.

If you are found to be alcohol/drug dependent, then you will face a nine-month or two-year intensive outpatient treatment program (or a 21-28 days in-patient program followed by outpatient treatment). Called “SP2″ (significant problem level 2), there are two basic phases: Phase 1 includes 72 hours of group or individual treatment over 8 to 12 weeks. Phase 2 lasts six months and consists of weekly group/individual sessions.

For the entire nine months, you must abstain from alcohol and non-prescribed drugs completely. You must submit to random urinalysis tests as well. Plus, you must attend two weekly AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) or other self-help recovery group sessions, and you will need to prove that you attended such treatment.

Understand that this two-year treatment equates to the first of two phases mentioned above, with the addition of phase three. That consists of a monthly group/individual session lasting 15 months. All the conditions listed above remain. If you have been found dependent and you want to petition the court for a deferred prosecution, you are required to finish the two- year treatment program.

It’s not hard to find state-certified agencies that offer alcohol drug evaluations in Washington because there are many. We highly that you call us or another experienced DUI attorney before taking an alcohol/ drug evaluation. They may set you back $75-$200, and don’t forget that many agencies tend to label people and stigmatize them, making it easier to commit them to long-term treatment.

Should I just Plead Guilty and get it over with?

No. Never. It is common to feel ashamed or guilty after being arrested for DUI. But never plead guilty prior to consulting an experienced DUI defense lawyer. You never know if there’s evidence (or a lack of evidence) unlawfully gathered, or if regulations and protocols were not followed which would warrant its suppression. By pleading guilty, you’ve sealed your fate. Call first to speak with an experienced attorney at the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer and proceed with the right information.

If there are no potential issues that could cause additional charges, we never advise you to plead right away in case the prosecutor offers only that you plead guilty “as charged” That’s because we believe our clients hired us to vigorously fight to protect their interests. It’s easier for anyone to plead right away without any representation or effort. But we were hired for a reason. We can create opportunities by challenging the prosecutor’s evidence and refusing to simply plead guilty to the underlying charge.

What are the chances of a dismissal?

Almost always, DUI cases do not get “dismissed.”

Some of our clients who have had cases dismissed, due to constitutional or jurisdictional challenges, or due to the fact that we went to trial and the client was found not guilty. However, if you are charged with a DUI, you should never expect your charge to be dismissed outright.

If the Court grants you a deferred prosecution, you can get the DUI dismissed after five years. Remember, however, this is not an easy process. For this to work, the court must find you suffering from alcohol or drug addiction according to a state-certified agency. Plus you must agree to complete a treatment program lasting two years, during which (and for three years after program completion), you have to abstain completely from alcohol and mood-altering drugs.

You can have the DUI charge dismissed if after five years from the time you enter the deferred prosecution you have successfully completed treatment and followed all other terms of the program to the letter.

Will I go to jail?

It’s hard to say if you’ll go to jail. To begin with, because of the statutory mandatory minimums, jail time is required if you are convicted of a DUI. For the first offense, house arrest in lieu of jail may be the course of action.

Remember that you must serve some form of incarceration if you are convicted for a DUI. And yet, no statutory requirements exist that force you to spend time in jail if your case receives a reduction to a lesser offense (such as negligent driving in the first degree or reckless driving). If you have your charges reduced that does not necessarily or automatically mean you won’t serve time in jail. Many variables can determine that outcome.

Most importantly, your criminal history comes into play. Other variables factor in as well, such breath/blood tests, if there were open alcoholic containers or passengers in the vehicle, if there was an accident, and your overall behavior with the law enforcement officer (did you pass the attitude test?). Jurisdiction also matters because some prosecutors in some jurisdictions are much more thorough and dogged than others.

Last, if you are lucky enough to obtain a plea agreement with the prosecutor, and you won’t have to serve time in jail, the judge does not need to abide by it. If you plead guilty, the judge has the final word as to the sentence.

We have resolved a high number of our first-offender DUI cases by negotiating a plea to a reduced charge, and our clients did not serve any time in jail. In many cases, our clients had only to perform community service, or serve on a work crew as a “sanction” for their conduct.

Every case is different, and we cannot guarantee to anyone we consult that jail time won’t happen. No one can. But when we do meet, we provide an educated opinion built on experience and expertise how we can best resolve your case and if jail will be likely or not.

How much do you charge?

We charge a flat fee. You pay exactly what we quote, and that includes everything – DOL hearing as well – until the final resolution of your criminal charge. Even for a jury trial, you face no other fees. That’s because we believe our clients should never feel forced to plead guilty to a charge only because they need to avoid expensive attorney costs of going to trial.

Since many variables can affect each case differently we do not provide that flat fee up front. Those include the particular facts of your case; which court that’s charging you; your past driving and criminal record; and whatever breath tests results that may exist. Your first consultation with us is totally free, without any cost or obligation whatsoever.

As you can imagine, many Washington attorneys defend DUIs and many fee structures prevail. For a DUI charge, some charge as low as $1,500, as high as $10,000. Be forewarned: you get what you pay for. Based on our experience and community reputation, we think you will find our fees extremely competitive.

Why should I hire Erin Bradley McAleer?

Once you read about the successes in our testimonials from former clients, you’ll see that our approach is indeed unique. We also treat all our client’s as human beings first, not merely our next defendant. We’re here to assist you in what’s really quite overwhelming for most people. We’re also very proud to be available when our clients need us. We publish our work and cell phone numbers and encourage our clients to field questions or concerns our way whenever they may come up.

At our initial consultation, we do not conduct hard-sell tactics for retaining our firm. We only ask about the facts of your particular case, and then proceed to a lengthier discussion of the entire process. Again, we make the fee clear and understandable, and we can guarantee that when you leave our consultation, you’ll better understand what a DUI arrest means.

If the Washington DOL suspends or revokes my license, can I still drive?

Yes, you still can drive because of the new, statutorily created Ignition Interlock License (IIL). If you have lost your privilege to drive, either because of a DOL administrative action or a DUI conviction, you can get the IIL. In Washington State, you must complete and file with the DOL the IIL application(IIL Application) along with a $100 fee; prove financial responsibility insurance (SR22); and install in your vehicle a functional ignition interlock device obtained from a state-approved agency. After you are arrested for a DUI, you can apply the IIL right away and BEFORE your administrative hearing. However, if you do so, you forfeit the right to a hearing. Please note: to better protect your interests, call an attorney for consultation before you impulsively decide to apply for an IIL.

Some drivers are ineligible for a Washington IIL. You cannot obtain one if you have been convicted for vehicular assault or homicide (or if you have been convicted in the past) or if the DOL considers you a habitual traffic offender (HTO). However, almost all drivers are indeed eligible to apply right away for an IIL in Washington State.

If I blew under the legal limit can Washington State still charge me with a DUI?

Yes. Even if your breath test results showed you were under the legal limit, Washington can still charge and prosecute you for DUI. Washington State DUI statute (RCW 46.61.504) considers a person DUI when under the influence of alcohol and/or drug and that their driving is affected to any appreciable degree. The prosecutor considers all of the evidence before pressing charges. That evidence includes driving; the suspect’s appearance and demeanor; any admissions to drinking or taking drugs; and field sobriety test results.

When should I speak with an attorney about my DUI arrest?

It is very important that anyone arrested for DUI contact an attorney right away. There is no cost or obligation to meet with the attorneys at the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer for a free initial consultation. During the meeting, the attorney will get a background of the driver and ask several questions regarding the incident. After obtaining a clear understanding of the type of case they are dealing with, the attorney will then discuss the law and process surrounding the driver’s particular case. At the end of the meeting, the person always has a much better understanding of their situation and what to expect in the weeks and months to come.

The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer will fight to ensure that you achieve the best possible outcome in your court case. Call attorney Erin Bradley McAleer today at (360) 334-6277 to schedule an immediate confidential free consultation. Get expert answers to your Washington DUI FAQ.

Washington Attorney Erin Bradley McAleer represents clients throughout Southwest Washington State, including in Clark County, Cowlitz County, and Skamania County and Vancouver, Battle Ground, Camas, La Center, Ridgefield, Washougal, Woodland, Yacolt, Castle Rock, Kalama, Kelso, Longview, North Bonneville, and Stevenson. Attorney Erin Bradley McAleer focuses on the areas of Criminal Defense, Traffic Infractions, Landlord Tenant, Personal Injury, Firearm Rights Restoration, and Post-Conviction Relief (Vacating & Sealing Criminal Records).